November 13, 2012 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 16 comments
Matt “Skip” Sewell is everywhere in Ultimate right now. Currently, he is a captain of Seattle Sockeye, the co-founder of the Ultimate Invite Championships, the tournament director of Emerald City Classic, and part of the braintrust of Major League Ultimate as the Creative Director and Brand Manager. His MLU bio also credits him for starting “the world’s first Ultimate specific event company,” the controversial Cultimate.
Ultiworld spoke with Sewell last week about his initial impressions of USA Ultimate’s new Triple Crown Tour and how the announcement might affect the MLU.
He spoke first about “It’s a solution to some of the problems they’ve been discussing for a long time, like. ‘How do you take the highest levels of the sport and make it marketable?’ The system is a better way, not the best way, to create the hype, to showcase these events…I still wonder, because of the incurred travel costs across the board, if [teams are] going to be able to bring a full roster to these events and whether [USA Ultimate will] really get the buy-in from the top teams that they think they’re going to.”
He added that Sockeye wouldn’t have brought a full team to the events if the Triple Crown Tour was in place this year, calling the new system “incredibly punitive” to West Coast teams. “I think, in our hearts, we would have considered it more of a burden than a good,” he said.
“If I’m a pro, pay me,” he continued, referring to the MLU’s plan to pay their athletes. “If I’m a pro, pay for my flights.”
Sewell also believes that changing the “mental paradigm” away from trying to peak at and win the Club Championships to trying to win the Triple Crown “is going to be incredibly difficult.”
Speaking as an MLU organizer, he was dismissive of USA Ultimate, saying that it didn’t really affect their planning. “Our schedule is set,” he said. “We couldn’t wait for USAU to make a decision. If our schedule conflicts with USAU, I don’t really know if that matters…If we have an overlap of players in the MLU and from these elite teams, I think the teams will go without them.”
When asked about the possibility of teams leaving USAU altogether and joining the MLU, Sewell didn’t call it an impossibility, but did say it was “down the road.”
This level of criticism of USA Ultimate is a bit surprising coming from the top levels of Major League Ultimate. They have been very media-conscious, with a controlled release of information beginning right with the announcement of the new league. One of their videos released yesterday along with their new website was an interview with Matt Glazer, a Philadelphia Spinners player. He praised the experience of playing in a stadium with fans and said, “I may never play USAU Club again.”
It was not an accident that this was included. There is a growing sense of competition between the organizations, whether explicitly stated or not. In our first discussion about the Triple Crown Tour, USA Ultimate CEO Tom Crawford wasn’t shy about sharing his feelings towards the upstart professional leagues. “Major League Ultimate, we haven’t got the slightest idea what that is,” he said. “We’ve heard that there’s something, but what is it? As of now it doesn’t exist.
“And the AUDL? Thank God we weren’t affiliated or associated with that. Or we’d be in the middle of a bunch of lawsuits right now.”
We will likely look back on 2012 as a major turning point in ultimate. But who will be writing the history books?